The Bhagavad Gita contains two slokas which encapsulate the principles of leadership. Sri Krishna reveals how a leader should himself act and how to lead or guide others.
Spiritually ignorant people are attached to results (saktah); the wise remain asaktah – totally unattached. They should work only for one purpose – loka sangrah – leading people and society towards peace, prosperity and happiness.
Furthermore, Sri Krishna points out that ignorant people attached to karma have their own faith, beliefs and way of thinking. A leader should not unsettle them immediately; he should remain steadfast and integrated in performing his own karma and motivate the unwise to perform their karmas more effectively.
Leadership has three aspects: the individual or the leader, who must lead, the people who are to be led, and finally, the goal or destination.
The leader must have a clear and concise knowledge of the destination or the goal to which he wants to lead people; he or she must also be aware of the path and the means necessary to reach the objective and lastly, the psychology of the followers must be understood. This is a very important aspect. One must grasp the state of mind of the people. If you do not know have any idea of what motivates them or their way of thinking and you speak about very high and lofty goals, you will not be effective.
To lead by example is the best way to guide others. The leader must be detached, patient, enthusiastic, dynamic and inspiring.
The motivation of a leader must be the welfare of all. A true leader is one who is interested not only in the material prosperity of people, but also in their spiritual unfoldment.
These two are the goals of dharma – all round prosperity in the world and spiritual unfoldment. Both are necessary for a flourishing society. Suppose all people become ascetics and sanyasis – can a nation go on? Or if all people are indulgent, thinking only of power play, material prosperity and pleasure – will that bring happiness and peace?
It is necessary to work and achieve something in this world. Without acquisition there is no point in renunciation. Renunciation has no meaning if there is nothing to renounce! Therefore, a beggar cannot be called a man of renunciation. It has worth only if one who has gained knowledge, wealth or success in this world, renounces them. After engaging in activity and spending time in acquiring possessions, a stage must come when a person should understand the goal of renunciation.
It is important for a leader to recognize that the majority of people have countless desires and ambitions for worldly things. They are fascinated by glamour and material wealth. They want to raise the standard of living and better their lot. At such a time, you cannot talk only of renunciation and the highest spiritual goal. That will not motivate them. But they should be shown that there is a greater goal and greater good also. It should be pointed out that if they go on acquiring more and more of the same, there will only be a quantitative change in their lives; there will be no qualitative transformation. Hence, they should not just work for more and more of the same, but also reflect on that which is greater and higher. People must not be kept ignorant of the fact that there is also a spiritual goal to be attained.
Loka sangrah is the objective of leaders – you have to lead people towards material prosperity and also impress on them that there is a spiritual goal in life which has to be desired and attained.
The path for reaching the goal must be very clear. The path is karma yoga – perform karma dedicated to the Lord. In the early stages, the route is of selfless dedicated action and aspiration for the greater goal of life. The path of yajna – that will take them to prosperity in this world and towards the higher spiritual goal – must be shown.
These days many leaders themselves do not know where they are going. If the followers ask, ‘Where are we going?’ the answer is ‘I myself do not know. I will figure it out as we go along!”
A leader must know where he is going. The goal is loka sangrah, the welfare of all. Doing karma in the yajna spirit is the path.
The Author is the Head of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide.